NFL Draft Watch: Veteran Risers and Fallers

By: Nicholas Kaminski

Every year, the NFL Draft sees a fresh crop of young players enter the league which leads to significant changes to the many NFL rosters. As a result, the fantasy football situations for several veterans will be significantly affected entering the 2013 NFL season. While some veterans are experiencing a sense of euphoria after learning of their team’s hauls, many could be left on benches due to the talent their team acquired in the draft.

Here are some of the risers and fallers due to the 2013 NFL Draft:

Andy DaltonRiser:  Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals focused on their offense early in the draft, picking up Tyler Eifert, tight end from Notre Dame, in the 1st round, and following it up by grabbing Giovani Bernard, running back from UNC in the 2nd round. Eifert is a pass catching machine that can use his superior athleticism to get strong releases and become a serious red zone threat. Bernard is a small, elusive back that can be a threat running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. He caught 92 passes over his two years playing in college, and provides Dalton with another reliable target. Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis should combine to create a great running attack. Combining these new weapons with Pro-Bowl WR A.J. Green and reliable TE Jermaine Gresham as well as the emerging young receivers Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu, will enable Dalton to take another step forward this season. Coming off a season in which he passed for 3669 yards with 27 TDs and only 16 INT, Dalton is a great candidate to push for 4000 yards with 30+ TDs in 2013. He is one of my top backup QB sleepers coming into the year.

 

Riser: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Rivers has experienced a steady decline over the past few years, but things are looking up. For starters, the Chargers dumped Norv Turner for quarterback guru Mike McCoy, who turned Kyle Orton into successful NFL QB and revamped the Broncos offense on the fly to hide a lot of Tim Tebow’s weaknesses on route to the playoffs in 2011. The San Diego offensive line was an absolute mess in 2012, but in drafting D.J. Fluker with their first round pick, who may already be their best offensive lineman, Rivers’ protection should instantly be improved. They also wound up with a steal in round three in Keenan Allen, a very reliable receiver that should develop into a strong complement to Danario Alexander. With better protection and better weapons and a better coach, Rivers stock is on the mend. He is another strong QB-by-committee player, with the potential to re-establish himself as fantasy starter.

 

Riser: Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams

The Rams have all but given the keys to the franchise to Bradford. They traded away the pick that would have selected Robert Griffin III because they believed Bradford could become an elite QB and have done everything in their power to help Bradford succeed. With Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson departing, wide receiver was clearly the Rams biggest need entering the draft. They traded up in the first round to get Tavon Austin, a dynamic playmaker that is a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands. They also picked up his teammate at West Virginia, Stedman Bailey, a touchdown machine who is not as talented physically as Austin but has been consistently productive. These two, along with newly signed TE Jared Cook, provide Bradford with dependable weapons that can make an immediate impact. They also shored up his protection with versatile Alabama lineman Barrett Jones, who can play anywhere on the offensive line. With these young additions, Bradford is due for a big year. After finishing as the 16th best QB in fantasy last season, Bradford’s stock is on the way up and he’s a very solid backup.

 

Rising: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

Johnson had a roller coaster of a year in 2012. The once 2,000 yard rusher seemed to be a shell of his former self to start the season, but as the season went on flashes of the old CJ2K shone through. Although the addition of Shonn Greene caps some of his upside, the additions of offensive linemen Andy Levitre (through free agency) and Chance Warmack (through the draft) are great for Johnson’s value. Levitre was one of the best free agents available and Warmack was some experts’ number one overall prospect. The duo should become a two man wrecking crew to fear for Tennessee opponents and could pave the way for a successful season from CJ2K. The inconsistency will always make Chris Johnson a tough guy to own, but these additions are a very encouraging sign. I’d draft him as a high-end B2 option that has the potential to become a lead back for your fantasy team.

 

Falling: Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

With Chip Kelly at the helm, Celek’s stock was looking up, but with the Eagles drafting Stanford tight end Zach Ertz with their second selection in the draft, Celek’s role is in serious question. Ertz rivaled Tyler Eifert for the number one tight end spot, after catching 69 passes for 898 yards and 6 TD in his junior year. He is much more athletic than Celek and will be a constant threat to break off a big play, which will be highly valued in Chip Kelly’s offense up-tempo offense. As a result, Celek may be relegated to more of a blocking role, while Ertz is the primary pass catching TE. Therefore, Celek should be avoided in fantasy leagues while Ertz is the Eagles tight end to own now.

 

Falling: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals

After an injury ridden career in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall seemed to be on the rise after getting a fresh new start with the Cardinals. Coming into the draft, Mendenhall appeared to have the edge on perennially injured running back Ryan Williams for the Cardinals starting RB position. Unfortunately for Mendenhall, the team went out and picked up some very nice running back prospects in the draft. Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington, the Cardinals 5th and 6th round selections, are very capable running backs that could produce from day one if given the opportunity. These additions ensure that Mendenhall is a guy to avoid in fantasy football leagues. Even if he’s given the starters job coming into the season, I doubt feel confident that he will stay healthy or has the talent to be able to maintain it the whole year.

 

Falling: Matt Flynn, QB, Oakland Raiders

Once again, Flynn sits at the very unstable head of a quarterback battle. Last season, he was assumed to be the starting quarterback in SEA, but Russell Wilson beat him out for the job. He now has to beat out another Wilson if he hopes to finally be the starting quarterback he so desires to be. As discussed in our Sleeper Rookies article, Tyler Wilson had an up and down career at Arkansas, but he has proven to have exemplary leadership and toughness. He has all of the intangibles to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, which must be frightening to Flynn. It seemed as though he had finally found a home for himself, but he now risks sitting it out with a clipboard once again. As such, even if he wins the job Flynn’s job will be far from safe, so in deeper leagues be careful when investing in Flynn.

Follow Nicholas Kaminsky on Twitter @Kamifootball

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